Icy Cold

“Your hands are cold.”

I heard these words throughout my third year of medical school, the year during which we first touched patients on a routine basis.

My hands were cold. I was nervous; how could I not be? What a strange experience for me–asking strangers to disrobe, then touching their bare skin.

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Coffee and Miracles

I am sipping the foam off my café latte, holding the cup with both hands because they’re shaking so much. It is early morning and very cold, even for New York, but the waiting room at Mount Sinai Hospital is warm and open to a 10-story atrium courtyard. The Starbucks on the ground floor seems to be the hub of the hospital, as, from the balcony of the waiting room, I watch doctors in scrubs, patients in wheelchairs, Hasidic Jews (identifiable by their curls) in black coats standing in a line that snakes through the lobby.

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The Transition

As a medical student, I would show up to clinic the first day of my rotation and introduce myself to the receptionist. Standing there in the waiting room, conspicuous in my short, white coat, and referring to myself as “the new medical student,” I’d feel the patients’ gaze. The receptionist would wave me to the clinic, and I would sigh with relief.

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Pity Party

Following eye surgery, I was “sentenced” to two weeks of lying face down. But five days in I know without a doubt that something has gone horribly wrong.

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Deciphering the ER Triage Formula

I want to know what the formula is. I’m speaking, of course, of the formula that gets one person back into the emergency room to be seen, while another waits and waits with the sick, cranky, disheveled masses.

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Desperate for Change

It is a mild Sunday afternoon in October, and I am standing in front of a closed reception window, desperate for change. It is the early 1990s, and we don’t yet have cell phones. I have already exhausted my supply of coins, making calls on the public phone hanging on the wall in the ER waiting room. 

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Hope

Who knows how many voices created the cacophony that filled the waiting room that night? Words, wails and whispers gave sound to the gamut of human experiences and emotions. But as I listened, I heard one clear, unwavering note that floated above the clamor.

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